Taekwondo Looking More Like UFC A Possibility…Or Not

        World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) President Choue Chung-won in 2013 explains in an article about the loss of popularity that Taekwondo Olympic sport fighting has taken over the years. He said it is due to things such as spin kicks being given dominance and more points which causes fighters to spend more time on jump spin kicks making the sport look like a badly choreographed ballet. Also, punches are barely ever scored and taking away the punch emphasis is bad for Taekwondo. He suggested making the shape of the ring in an octagon with mesh fencing around it.

WTF President Choue Chung-won

Some traditionalists for Taekwondo WTF sport do not like this idea and claim it will make Taekwondo like the UFC, but President Chung-won says that is actually a good thing. The only bad idea I think he has is to change the uniform to look like a sports jersey. That would not help TKD but make it just like any average sport. The dobok is much like the gi in Judo. Changing the dobok would make most dojangs copy them only, and the self defense and grabbing techniques of Taekwondo could be lost since most schools would not worry about it by wearing basketball jersey type uniforms. Taekwondo is a martial art with wonderful traditions and it would be sad some of them got lost over a silly uniform change. Keeping a regular dobok would work fine. If they just allow the sleeves to be rolled up, or given shorter material on the arms it would solve the problem.

Imagine this shape with mesh fencing.

The changes the WTF president Chung-won is mentioning are actually good ideas, minus his uniform idea. But the whole wire mesh, octagon shape idea would be very hard for local tournament promoters to get since it would cost so much money. The electronic scoring itself is hard enough to come by and makes Taekwondo a sport for the rich. The problem with Olympic competitions and the USAT is they only allow the rich to compete in high profile tournaments with all of their money making schemes like buying a special uniform for that year, electronic scoring, and high tournament fees for example. I do wish the rules would change and allow face punches, leg kicks, and ever solid shot on certain areas should be only 1 point no matter what the technique. Making everything 1 point solves so many of the ugly and idiotic looking movements that WTF Taekwondo practitioners train for today, since all they worry about is how to work the point system in their favorite. So stupid technique that is not really something a martial artist would use in a fight is trained for in order to score points in tournaments. Making Taekwondo more combative and realistic will only make the entire world Taekwondo culture more martial in nature and Taekwondo can regain its focus on effective fighting techniques and self defense with a more combative sport on the side than the foot tag ballet they claim is full contact today. Hardly anyone is hitting full contact now since they don’t have to to score points. Just simply tag the censor and make the siren go off and that will help you win.

Taekwondo sport needs to be more combative with a larger range of target options with legs and face punching allowed. Even adding knees and elbows would be exciting but it is obvious that is pushing it. And to all of the people who claim “the real TKD is ITF sparring” you need to understand that ITF sparring is still point tag and officially it is not even full contact and ends up looking just as stupid as WTF competitions.

Finally, Taekwondo needs to have an option for post-amateur fighting. Where do Taekwondo fighters go after they win in the Olympics? Where do they go after they get through amateur competitions? Then what? There is no money in Taekwondo for professional competitions. if Taekwondo created a more serious and full contact fighting sport for paid professional fighters like they do for boxing then Taekwondo would stay more relevant. Boxing rules change a lot after amateur competitions with a lot more movements and punches allowed. Taekwondo needs to do the same thing only with kicks and knee strikes and more. Get rid of the silly scoring sensors and go to Taekwondo Kickboxing. MMA and Kickboxing as well as Boxing does not need electronic scoring to know who wins a fight. Turning Taekwondo into “Fencing” is one reason Taekwondo is boring. Watching Fencing is boring to me since it is not even like an actual sword fight. Taekwondo became that way when they made electronic scoring socks, gloves, head gear and chest gear mandatory.

With opinions such as WTF President Choue Chung-won it gives hope that some Koreans involved in Taekwondo are seeing the light and hopefully will stop commercializing Taekwondo as bad as it has been done the past couple of decades which made it nothing more than silly ballet foot tag and performance art and not a real combat system.  Hopefully more Grandmasters and officials involved in the organizations of Taekwondo will see the dominance of MMA as a reason to make Taekwondo more combative, which means more fun and more exciting, and more of a true Martial Art!



  1. Grey Wolf says:

    I agree 100%. Octagon is not necessary (also impossible since it is trademarked by UFC). You don’t need a cage, just a ring. Current TKD space is fine. Also I hope we keep doboks. That’s martial arts man. I am never giving up a dobok.

    • White Dragon says:

      Well if its mesh and not a cage then maybe its not trademarked by the UFC, and if they dont call it a cage or whatever.
      An octagon shape is cool I guess and people could tape it off on a gym floor possibly. If they do the octagon without a mesh netting or whatever it could work. Also why not just do TKD in a kickboxing ring then? Have ropes! no out of bounds nonsense just hang on the ropes!

  2. I do not see the point of the octogon shape myself. It would be far easier and cheaper to keep the rings as is. The rule changes I am all for, except the dobok change. What is interesting historicly is that the WTF were the ones who changed the Dobok from the Y-Neck to the V-Neck because of competition. Everyone (including Kukkiwon) followed suit. If you look at KTA promo videos from the 1980s you will see some Taekwondoin using the Y-Neck dobok and some using the V-neck Dobok. The difference between now and then is that the market is a lot more global now and that at that time the change was simply a matter of changing the style slightly but now it is a Complete change of uniform. I doubt he will get that one through so I doubt we will see People competing in Taekwondo in anything else than a dobok.

    It will be exciting to see if any of his rule changes will come into effect in the future though. Adding punches to the game and make it more realistic would be great:-) Personally I do not like to watch anything but the highlights of Olympic sparring. A good Taek Kyon match however is someting I really like. THey have trips, throws, kicks and sweeps. Also sometimes they demonstrate a form or self defense before the match making watching an event into a very entertaining experience:-) They do not have much in punching in their matches but their wide arsenal of techniques still makes it a good watch:-)

    • White Dragon says:

      I agree. tae Kyon is very interesting to watch. I dont know the rules but if it is continuous sprring it would be exciting to see such things.

      In the old days Taekwondo wore a karate gi, if that is what you mean by Y-neck. I think if TKD does the Y-neck thing and makes the dobok strong to practice grabbing techniques like an okinawan karate gi it would make Taekwondo better. The sport doboks are too thin and rip so easily. They need to make both sport ones and also hoshinsool ones approved by the WTF.

      The octagon might make it easier for judges to see at various angles to catch points and also keep people fromc onstantly going out of bounds as easy if they get to a corner. It would make it kind of like wrestling.

  3. MesYang88 says:

    We do 20 to 21 foot square rings. We don’t care if you go out of bounds as long as you don’t stay out of bounds for an extended period of time; you either circle around or let the other guy back into the ring. We count punches as well as kicks, but at this point we don’t allow contact unless it’s to a protected area (otherwise just get rid of the chest guards and go to town). In our tournaments everything is one point and we don’t do the electronic hogu, though I have a friend that loves them. I agree that changing the uniform is unnecessary, though I agree that rolling (or even hemming) the sleeves shouldn’t be a problem, and I don’t even wear a dobak. In our current rules we don’t count elbows or knees though I’m not entirely sure why that is, as we practice elbows and knees.

    The octagon shape would either A: Take up too much space or B: Take away space depending on how they set it up. And I don’t think TKD should become cage fighting. If someone wants to test your TKD in an MMA setting then simply sign up for an MMA competition.

    Though I personally will never be a pro-athlete or fighter I agree it would be nice if there were more professional or career options for skilled TKD practitioners, other than “start teaching and good luck making the bills”.

    • White Dragon says:

      ya if TKD had some pro fighting competitions like they did in the 90’s it would be cool. But it never got popular bc it was incredibly boring. It was the exact same ruels as WTF sparring! Just without headgear. It was lame. You can see it on youtube. very boring. But of course olympic fighters sparred WAAAY different back then than they do now. More aggressive.

      Can you do elbows and knees in a tournament or do you get warnings?

      I think in a real competition no one is going to allow the opponent to just come back into the ring. The point is to smash the opponent and win and kick him out of the ring to show dominance.

      • MesYang88 says:

        Elbows aren’t illegal, so no warning or point deductions. But they don’t officially count as a point.

        You either let them back in or the ref stops the match to let them back in. Either way, they get back into the ring. If you want to look like a douche cock and extend the time by having the ref stop it every few seconds than sure you can just keep pushing them backwards. (though I’m sure anyone who knows what they’re doing knows how to side step or circle around) Or if you want to just keep pushing them around you side step and push them to the next side and repeat the process, chasing them in circles around the ring, lol.

      • White Dragon says:

        I dont see how dominating an opponent in a combat sport and kicking him so much he retreats back and runs away out of bounds makes someone look like a douche…I think you are used to overly polite groups who shun anyone who has serious skill to display and show they are the winner. WTF rules if you kick someohe out of bounds they will get warnings for running away. Also if ther un away out of bounds they look like the douche not the other guy, they also dont get points from out of bounds but the guy kicking their ass can get points while he forces them out.

        If elbows are not illegal but are not worth points what is the point? Weird. Is it full contact?

  4. MesYang88 says:

    Being forced out of the ring and running out of the ring are two different things, I believe you’d agree with that. We also give warnings to those that simply run out of the ring to avoid getting hit, so it looks like our rules are the same there. If you have enough control of the match to force them out of the ring you probably have enough control to force them left or right as well. (like I said above) Why simply force them back just to have your last kick or two not count? Force them back, then to the side, then back again, etc. (again, as I said above)

    I’m sure the two of us both have different definitions of “full contact”, but I’d probably say no, our competition isn’t full contact. Though we don’t count “light contact” techniques as a point either. Every point has to have enough force to stop forward momentum, simply tapping a valid target isn’t good enough.

    • White Dragon says:

      In WTF rules if you force a guy out of the ring by dominating him all of your kicks count, none of his do if he hs out of bounds, but all of your kicks count since you are still in the ring and he is the one heading backwards to avoid getting hit. I do not see how any of this is dishonorable.

      In competition all of the polite stuff you do in the dojang has nothing to do when you are in the ring fighting that person. Before the fight you shake hands, during the fight you play by the rules and do what you have to do to win, after the fight you shake hands. This is all honorable. This is my opinion.

      I would not like your tournament rules of having to allow a person back in by backing off some. But your tournament does sound interesting with the tecyniques it allows and it is probably fun. It seems your tournaments are not seen as very serious and more of just recreation than serious competition. Thats cool too if everyone understands it and is into it, but your average tournament you really want to get aggressive and win.

  5. MesYang88 says:

    You don’t have to allow the other person in, you can let it go to the referee if you want. 🙂

    Most of the tournaments I attend are “in-house” tournaments, usually ranging from 100 to 300 competitors total. At the higher ranks, all know each other and have for years-and-years (which is both a good and bad thing).

    If we went to an open tournament or had goals such as becoming nationally ranked or trying to make the USA Team than I’m sure it would be a different story, but for the majority of us we’re just not interested in that. I’ve only had one friend who was, and he ended up leaving our style as a 3rd dan in order to become a certified USA Taekwondo coach. 🙂

    • White Dragon says:

      I get you. It is a tight knit community. That makes sense. For me though, if I go into tournaments (which I choose not to anymore) I go off on them. And I always get DQed too for stupid reasons, or I lose out on idiotic rules about points. Oh well

      This is me as green belt at the junior olympics getting disqualified for no reason but because a kid chose to try like a baby: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N21NcBa-LxM

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